Charlotte Macdonald is a Senior Associate Solicitor in Stone King’s international and cross-border team. She answers legal and practical questions that are often asked by her clients in relation to France; whether that be buying or selling property in France, inheritance law, or how inheritance and capital gains tax are treated between the UK and France. Here, she looks at the affects that a name change through marriage has on properties owned in both France and the UK.
Q: If I change my name once I am married, will it affect my properties in France and in England if I need to sell them or if I pass away?
I have recently married and have decided to change my last name to that of my husband. We owned a property jointly in France before we married and I also own a property in my sole name in England. I am worried that because the property deeds will no longer show my name, that there will be difficulties if I wish to sell the properties, or if I die my family may no longer be able to inherit the properties.
I am a British national and live in England. Our home in France is a holiday home.
Answer: there are different rules to consider concerning your French and UK homes
In England there is no legal requirement to change your name on your property deeds if you changed your name following your marriage. However, if you want to update your name, you can do so by sending HM Land Registry a ‘Change the Register’ Form (Form AP1) and a copy of your UK marriage certificate. More detail can be found on the Land Registry website.
The process is a little more complicated if you married in France, as you will also need to send the Land Registry a verified translation of the marriage certificate.
Although its not legally necessary to update your property deeds to show your change of name, it may be required if you are re-mortgaging and might help to speed up identity confirmation issues if you are selling.
If you pass away with your property still owned under your birth name, this won’t prevent the property passing to your beneficiaries under the terms of your Will (or to your family members under the intestacy rules if you don’t have a Will). However, when your Executors/Personal Representatives are applying for your estate’s grant of probate/grant of letters of administration, they should note that you were known by more than one name, and list all your known names. This means that both your married name and maiden name will appear on the grant. This will make dealing with the Land Registry more straightforward when it comes to selling the property or transferring it to your beneficiaries.
Although in England we can change our name on marriage, in France it is a little different. On marriage a spouse has the right to use the name of the other spouse. This is known as the nom d’usage, and is the name that you use in your day to day life. This right generally comes to an end of divorce.
Even if you want to legally take your spouse’s name, under French law this isn’t possible and on French official documents, such as driving licences and passports, the name that you were born with will continue to be shown, even if you have married.
However you will have the option for your nom d’usage to be used on some documentation, and on others you will have the option for both your birth name and your nom d’usage to be shown.
French Property deeds will use your birth name, even after you have married and have adopted a nom d’usage. Therefore, the fact that your birth name is shown in your French property deeds will not cause a problem when you come to sell your French home, or if you pass away whilst still owning your French property.
For more information please contact the international and cross-border team at Stone King LLP –Charlotte Macdonald, Dan Harris, Raquel Ugalde, Emma Seaton, Bryony Anning and Marina Emmanouel either by calling +44(0)1225 337599 or by emailing [email protected].
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